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Exhibit displays vibrant photos of Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

Exhibit displays vibrant photos of Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

Those who long to escape somewhere warm and tropical during the exam period should head to the Underwater Photographs from the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef exhibit on now at York’s ZigZag Gallery.

The exhibit, by master of environmental studies (MES) student Carey Satin (right), is on display today and tomorrow at the ZigZag Gallery on first floor of the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building, Keele campus.

The photographs are from Satin’s summer volunteer work in Honduras, where she performed coral reef assessment research with the nonprofit environmental conservation network Operation Wallacea. Satin researches sustainable dive tourism, looking at the relationships between tourism and conservation, and on how marine tourism might be geared to help marine conservation. She believes, “Areas lucky enough to have coral reefs can learn to use them sustainably [as a resource],” and she hopes that her research will help to develop such practices.

Her photographs display the aquatic landscape in Honduras, part of the second largest barrier reef in the world. “My hope was to capture and captivate an audience,” Satin says. “I really wanted to show the observer things they may not have seen before, such as the coral feeding at night or the fluorescence of the Caribbean reef octopus. I wanted to highlight the diversity of form [within a single coral reef]…I want people to realize what is at stake.”

Left: A giant hermit crab is just one of the photos in the exhibit by Carey Satin

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere, spanning over a thousand kilometres from Mexico to Honduras, following the eastern coastline. Considered to be one of the most biologically diverse aquatic sites in the world, it sustains local and international food and tourism industries and plays a crucial role in the health of the Caribbean Ocean’s ecosystem. The reef, however, is threatened by negative human influences, including ocean acidification, sedimentation, exploitative fishing and irresponsible recreation.

Left: A photo from Carey Satin's exhibit, Rock Beauty, shows the vibrancy of colour at the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) student Aaron Manton, who visited Satin’s exhibit, described the photography as “extremely vivid…almost abstract-looking.” Thalia Felbert, also an FES student, said “I’m surprised to see so much colour…when you take light into a dark aquatic atmosphere, the environment reacts to it. [These photos] capture reality in the moment. A lot of environmental photos focus on destruction, [which] are used in mainstream media to get people’s attention.” But Felbert thinks Satin’s photos take another angle.

They reflect “being in the moment…neither a completely happy or sad picture.” They would make her feel hopeless, she said, if the photos focused on environmental degradation. “If it’s already happened, then there [would be] nothing I can do.”

Right: Cleaner Shrimp on Great Star Coral during Daylight, by Carey Satin

In her approach to photography, Satin understands the need to show the beauty. “To appreciate the bleakness of the parking lot, you have to know the beauty of what the forest looked like.”

Satin hopes to encourage new interest in coral reefs. “I wanted to target my exhibit to those who were not already familiar with the issues threatening coral reefs. I wanted to first make sure to highlight the beauty, to share the love I have for the vibrancy of the reef. It would be the most fantastic thing to influence others to want to learn more about coral reef ecosystems. Life is art, diversity is art. Our world is full of profound beauty, it is so important that we do what we can to protect it.”

For more information, contact the Wild Garden Media Centre at ext. 30533 or

Submitted by Michael Young, FES communications graduate assistant

Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.